A plan put in place last year to turn the Hudson’s Bay warehouse building into an arts centre is moving forward, states a proponent, with a goal to have the building ready for a ribbon cutting July 1.

Members of the Yellowknife Artists Cooperative stand in front of the Hudson’s Bay Warehouse early 2017. Plans to turn the building into an artist’s space are moving forward smoothly. From left is Bill Wyness, Ted McLeod, Laila Nesbitt, Richard Guy, Matthew Grogono and Scott Lough. photo courtesy of Yellowknife Artists Cooperative

The building, which is more than half a century old, is in disuse and Matthew Grogono, owner of Old Town Glassworks and a member of the Yellowknife Artists Cooperative, said the building is “just asking to be utilized.”

He was first introduced to the building in 1994, when music teacher Earl McCauley brought up ideas of turning the building into an arts centre. The building presented an interesting challenge, one that is finally seeing completion on the horizon more than a quarter-century later.

Grogono recounts bringing in vocalist Renee Jones to the warehouse space in 1994. She asked if she could test out the acoustics, and proceeded to “sing Amazing Grace, which rattled the whole building.” Since then, the warehouse has been something Grogono “couldn’t get rid of.”

Jones, now president of Nunasi Financial Services, remembers sharing the same excitement when Grogono brought her in to take a look at the building in 1994.

“The upper area would make a great ballet studio … the main level could easily be converted into a darkroom. The area with the wooden staircase would make a gorgeous art gallery or gift shop.”

The cooperative is on track to begin a feasibility study costing $21,000.

“It’s not a lot of money compared to the magnitude of this project – rustling up a few thousand dollars for research and development is nothing compared to a multi-million dollar restoration” Grogono said.

The money is coming from a number of sources. At the project’s outset, the majority of the funding came from membership dues and fundraising events. Since then, the group has received $3,000 from the City of Yellowknife, and is hoping to receive another $20,000 to $30,000 from the Yellowknife Community Foundation’s new 25th anniversary fund.

Once the feasibility is assessed and a business plan is put in place, the cooperative plans to have the building paid off over the next five years, at an estimated budget of $5 million.

There’s been overwhelming support by the community, with many offers of donations.

“It’s been like feeding time at the fish pond, but because we’re still in the process of researching viability, we didn’t want to collect these gifts if I couldn’t produce something viable.”

It looks more and more like a dream that started in 1994 is beginning to become reality. Jones is just one of the people who are hoping for it.

“The building is a historic beauty and I really hope they can do it.”

Leave a comment

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.